Long-term management involves regular (6 monthly) check-ups with the vet, monitoring your dog closely for any signs of change and recognising the signs of an “Addisonian Crisis”.
It is important to keep stress to a minimum and notify your vet of any anticipated times of stress (eg. fireworks, going into kennels), as they may suggest increasing the dose of medication.
The outlook is excellent for those dogs who respond well to treatment.
Treatment is lifelong
Addison’s or Hypoadrenocorticism is a disease which arises when the body, specifically, the adrenal gland, stops producing normal amounts of the steroid hormones called cortisol and aldosterone. These hormones are needed by all the cells within the body in order to remain healthy. When a dog doesn’t produce enough of these hormones, they can become unwell and if these hormone levels become very low, it can be a life-threatening emergency.
In this article we will look more closely at how we can help support our companions who are suffering from Addison’s and what we can expect for their future.
Whilst treatment of Addison’s is relatively straightforward, there are a number of things we can do as owners to make sure that our dog’s Addison’s Disease remains well managed. These include:
Monitoring your dog closely for any changes. It is important that these are picked up and reported
Any changes in appetite (especially a decrease)
The dog’s bodyweight (particularly any loss)
Their demeanour (especially if becoming increasingly low in energy or weak)
Any change to frequency of urinating or drinking (especially an increase)
Any change to faeces (particularly if they are becoming loose, containing blood or are sticky and tar like – containing digested blood).
Keeping stress to a minimum
Sometimes we cannot remove stress from our dog’s life and so we need to anticipate times of stress. Dogs suffering from Addison’s will probably require additional levels of cortisol during periods of stress. If you know your dog is going into kennels, firework displays are approaching or you are having noisy guests to stay, it is worth talking to your vet beforehand as they may suggest increasing the dose of medication in preparation
Injury and illness can also affect an Addisonian dog in the same way as stress. It is important therefore, to notify your vet if your dog develops an injury or illness. The dose of medication may need to be altered to provide additional support.
We encourage this a lot but it is important that your dog has a twice-yearly full health checks with your veterinary practice - it means we can spot a problem before it literally becomes a crisis!
This check should include a blood test to check their hormone levels and salt levels and screen for any other underlying diseases which may complicate things. A urine sample at this point is often a good idea too.
Recognising the signs of an ‘Addisonian Crisis’. Familiarise yourself with the signs to look out for an Addisonian Crisis. This can occur if your dog’s steroid levels are dangerously low and is a real emergency. The signs include: a sudden onset of severe vomiting and diarrhoea, collapse and weakness, tremoring and a low heart rate. It is important that you contact an emergency vet immediately if they start showing any, or a combination of these signs.
Most dogs who respond well to treatment have an excellent outlook and go on to lead happy and healthy normal lives. They will have to be on medication for life however, which will involve regular trips to the vet. Things are a bit more complicated if your dog has other long-term illnesses, such as diabetes, that make treating and managing Addison’s more difficult. Working with your vet can help you to make the best decisions for you and your pooch.
As always, if you have any questions, or would like to discuss your dog’s diagnosis of Addison’s, the vets at MyDogDoc are happy to help.